A 1941 graduate of Tilghman High School with a bachelor or arts from Western Kentucky University, Sullivan taught English at Western for a short while then at Spencerian College in Louisville for 20 years. He was appointed director of Army Education at the Pentagon where he served the next 20 years. While in Washington, DC he volunteered as an information specialist at the Smithsonian and at Arlington County Museum. He jokes, “That was the only job I ever had where I told people where to go and they thanked me for it.”
In 1997 Sullivan retired and moved back to Paducah. He volunteered as an Ambassador for the Visitors’ Bureau. Throughout his life being actively involved in the theater, he served on the play selection committee of the Market House Theatre.
His poetry has been featured in Pegasus published by the Kentucky State Poetry Society as well as Crossroads and The Lyric. His book of poetry, Snowplows and Sunflowers, is a compilation of sixty poems.
“Poetry comes spontaneously. You have to have an emotion. When it comes, you have a compulsion to write to put that feeling into words,” Sullivan explained. “My poem ‘The House Next Door’ was written when my neighbor died. Many times I’m sleepless. I make up my own dreams through poetry,” he said. “They are not always serious. Sometimes they are even frivolous. A poet is never satisfied. I agonize over each word,” he said.
At 88 years Sullivan displays remarkable memory. He can recite any one of his poems verbatim as well as an incredible repertoire of jokes and anecdotes from which he entertains friends and visitors. He also nimbly plays a catalog of numbers on his piano.
“Bright Star on the River”
Come to my town, when spring’s magic
Has dressed the river’s brightest star
In pale greens and drifts of dogwood
While patterned quilts hang everywhere.
Drop anchor in its smooth-faced river
Any season — any day
And walk the streets of history
Only a few steps away...
Or walk where you can hear the whispering
Of old buildings’ brick and ivy—
Linger while foundation stones
Tell in silence their own story.
And where the barbeque’s a legend—
The desserts, rare poetry;
You can sip from age-old cups
Of southern hospitality.